The question now — after two failed days and six failed votes — is whether the deadlock among House Republicans over choosing a Speaker might propel the few Republican “moderates” to join with Democrats in electing a Speaker who’s not beholden to the extreme MAGAs.
I hesitate to call them "moderates" because they're still to the right of most Americans. But they are anti-Trump and anti-MAGA. For this reason, they hold in their hands the future of the Republican Party, as well as the future of the 118th Congress.
By my rough count, there are some 40 Republican Representatives — many from purple districts — who might be willing to vote with Democrats in selecting a Speaker.
If they do not do so soon, the MAGA extremists in the House may get their way.
What would that mean? As of Thursday morning — as conditions for getting their votes — the MAGA extremists of the “Freedom Caucus” are demanding (and McCarthy has already consented to, or is on the verge of acquiescing to):
- A rule allowing any member to force a vote ousting a speaker. While McCarthy originally indicated he wouldn’t go along with this, as of Thursday morning, he apparently has acquiesced.
- McCarthy will also give the Freedom Caucus two (possibly three) seats on the powerful House Rules Committee, which oversees the amendment process for the floor. The Freedom Caucus wants to choose their own members for these positions.
- A rule allowing the use of spending bills to defund particular programs and fire or reduce the pay of federal officials. The brewing deal with McCarthy includes a promise for standalone votes on each of the 12 yearly appropriations bills, allowing floor amendments to be offered by any lawmaker.
- Not yet agreed to by McCarthy: A pledge to hold votes on a balanced budget, term limits, and more border security, and not to bring to the House floor a bill increasing the debt ceiling. This last pledge would constitute a wildly irresponsible act that would lead to a shutdown of the U.S. government, threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, and endanger the entire economy.
There is still time for a deal to be struck between the few anti-MAGA Republicans in the House and House Democrats to elect an anti-MAGA Republican as Speaker. Michigan Rep. Fred Upton? Ohio Rep. David Joyce?
What should Dems seek in return for their votes? A power-sharing agreement similar to the one negotiated in the last Senate, whereby each party gets the same number of seats on all committees.
Friday will be the second anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. That attack provided a giant exit ramp for Republican lawmakers who wanted to get off the MAGA extremist Trump highway. But few took it.
The midterm elections of 2022 provided another exit ramp, when Republicans saw voters reject the MAGA extremists. Some Republicans have quietly taken it.
The current chaos surrounding the election of a new Speaker provides a third exit ramp. This one may be the last.
If every House Democrat joins them (212, with one vacancy), only six House Republicans could elect the next Speaker. Surely there are six who believe in governing?